In our daily communication, having decided that “anything goes”, we usually do not pay much attention to how correct our speech is. When such a tendency goes out of control, when we start to use absolutely inappropriate phrases and patterns, this trend is tempered by the efforts of the prescriptive movement. This is the third strength of the prescriptive method. This strength is based on the principle of standing against the irresponsible and careless use of grammar. Those who prefer the prescriptive method do not want to see a language die or inevitably change from misuse or abuse – they want to preserve it at any cost.
However, no matter how noble the efforts of the prescriptive approach are, it also has its weaknesses. First of all, it tends to influence everyone’s personal style of communication. The way we prefer to communicate with each other is chosen by everyone personally. Everyone has certain principles of communication which are expressed in the way one talks and writes, and they help a person to express personal sentiments and beliefs as well and clearly as possible. The prescriptive approach, however, does not allow that.
Being members of the society which develops and changes in its evolution, we choose some particular words and phrases to use habitually because we like them or because our friends and colleagues understand us better when we use them. Hence, our constant desire is to be free in choosing words and patterns to use instead of being obliged to use what someone has already chosen for us. The second weakness of the prescriptive method is that it strictly follows traditional rules of language use, and does not accept any innovations and realities of the 21st century, modern movements and changes.
In his book Net Words (2002) to explain this phenomenon Nick Usborne used an advertisement of a Honda. The advertisement was considered to be a perfect one – grammar and spelling were 100% in order. It was put online. After a few tests it became clear that the advertisement did not work, that it was flat and dull. To make the advertisement acceptable for the Internet they had to change the text and make several grammar errors in it. (Usborne, 2002) So, the weakness of the prescriptive method is that its rules often do not present the meaning in the way it is necessary to be presented.
Besides, it is quite difficult to make all the people follow the requirements of the prescriptive method. For example, the prescriptive approach requires usage of the past subjunctive after the word “if” (for example: if I were you), but it would be quite a challenge to make everyone speak correct and maintain that everyone who uses “was” is wrong, especially because many people say “if I was you” instead of “if I were you. ” (Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar) This is the third weakness of the prescriptive method. 4. Corpus and its Influence on the Debate
It is always necessary to consider possible arbitration. In any intelligently carried out debate there is no winner and no loser. This happens because a debate will always yield interesting arguments, views, ideas, and other perspectives that are worth of being studied deeper. For sure, in any debate, there will always be a side which will win the argument, as in the televised American presidential debates. There will always be a stronger debater and a weaker one. However, there is no winner, because a good debater does not make a good president. The same concepts can be applied to sociolinguistics.
There are certain arguments to prove that the descriptive method is the best approach. As well there are arguments to prove that the prescriptive one is better. All the arguments deserve merit. We have to learn, compare and analyze what is good and bad about both of the approaches. In this situation the appearance of the Corpus is a welcome development, because it continues to improve and develop in order to incorporate both the descriptive and prescriptive approaches. This is manifested by the new American Heritage Dictionary, which was the first dictionary to integrate Corpus linguistics.
As Wikipedia explained it, the American Heritage Dictionary introduced the innovation through combining the prescriptive method (how a language ought to be used) and the descriptive method (how language is used at present). (Wikipedia Foundation Inc. ) Corpus is a valuable tool of studying language because it not only makes peace between traditional and modern usage, but also provides verbal samples (the largest Corpus databases are characterized by a 90% written language and 10% verbal). Corpus’ role is very significant because it tends to calm the battle between the two schools of thought – the descriptive and prescriptive approaches.
Secondly, it was created via text encoding efforts, qualifying it for ISO Standard 8879. (Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar) That is why it will stand between the two approaches, giving an opportunity for compromise which will result in a better understanding of language in all its variations. According to David Crystal (2000) Corpus must be well-constructed and satisfy certain requirements. First of all, it must be large enough to be able to answer all possible questions concerning language.
Secondly, it must answer not only questions covering pronunciation or grammar, but all which relate to language including lexical questions as well. A million of words is not enough in Crystal’s view. He outlines that “the designers of a Corpus should consider whether only Standard English should be included in the Corpus, and whether it should be restricted to one country, or be moving in the direction of World English. ” (Crystal, 2000) As in the future Corpus will be enlarged, it will be able to address both the descriptive and prescriptive methods and all the issues arising from each.
By all the Linguistics students it should be viewed as a significant step forward. Considering global integration and globalization of all the fields of economy, politics and communication, a Corpus with ISO certification is a very important tool to banish any doubts that can be provoked by either approach. Conclusion Considering numerous and constant debates of many linguists from all over the world, it is a great thing that now we have no need to decide which approach to language is better or has more merit.
Now we can draw the essential principles from each one and decide how we may use them in order to carry out further research with the objective of adding to the growing body of language data. It is important to notice that from the perspective of the constantly and quickly changing world and language the descriptive approach may seem better, but it is important to remember that the world of symbols and meaning can be chaotic and, hence, need certain services of prescriptivists to diminish that confusion. Now we do not have to decide which school’s arguments are more convincing and what approach should dominate.
We think the idea should be to go ahead and use the rules as they apply to the majority of users. Understanding should be the main focus. A compromise can always be found, and a blending of two worlds can result in a beautiful harmony of ideas and teachings. Students today and students of tomorrow would be the beneficiaries of this union of opposing approaches because they certainly will not waste time arguing passionately, when they can always channel those passions to new fields of endeavor within communications or Linguistics.
Bibliograohy Bolinger, Dwight.Language: the Loaded Weapon – the Use and Abuse of Language Today. New York: Longman Group Limited, 1980. Crystal, David. Language Death. Cambridge: University Press, 2000. Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, UK. 1995. Liberman, Mark. Prescriptive and descriptive linguistics. Linguistics 001. Lecture 3. The Language Wars. 2005. Retrieved from http://www. ling. upenn. edu/courses/Fall_2005/ling001/prescription. html Accessed 13 September, 2006 Peters, Pam. The Cambridge Guide to English.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Usborne, Nick. Net Words – Creating High Impact Online Copy. New York: McGraw Hill, 2002. Wilson, Kenneth G. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, New York: Cambridge University Press. 1993. “Descriptive and Prescriptive Grammar”, Articles. Using English. com. Retrieved from http://www. usingenglish. com/articles/prescriptive-descriptive-grammar. html Accessed 12 September, 2006 Wikipedia Foundation Inc. “Corpus Linguistics”. Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Corpus_linguistics Accessed 12 September, 2006.